Thursday, November 29, 2012

Latest Update on Aman Scam Investment Scandal

The Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday filed before the Dept. of Justice a criminal complaint for violation of Securities Regulation Code against the Aman Futures Group Phils., Inc. and seven of its officials.

Charged were Manuel Amalilio, Fernando Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, William Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez and Lurix Lopez.

The respondents were charged after an investigation of the SEC showed they did not have a license to operate in their investment contract.

The SEC received on Oct. 15, 2012 an endorsement letter from the Dept. of Trade and Industry about the request of Serafin Barreto to investigate the alleged operation of Aman Futures in Pagadian City of offering 30% to 60% interest in investment.

British American Tobacco Supports Sin Tax in Philippines

By Joann Santiago

British American Tobacco (BAT) continued to support moves to increase sin taxes in the Philippines but raised some issues on the Senate version of the bill, which it said does not provide a level playing field to market players.

BAT Philippines Corporate and Regulatory Affairs chief Robert Eugenio stressed they are not questioning the Senate's sin tax bill measure, approved last Nov 20.

The Senate's version provides for P40 billion additional revenues in the first year of implementation once the bill has been made into law.

Eugenio, however, said although the approved bill provides for higher tax rates it still follows the tiered system similar to the 1996 prices and the tax rates are based on how much the companies paid this year.

"Taken together those two provisions, in effect, they create a new annex, which is, the list of brands that are in 2012 and then all new brands since they have to be based on 1996 pricing levels," he said.

Based on these provisions, Eugenio said there will still be no level playing field because new entrants will still be taxed higher rates even if their retail price is lower than the higher priced brands.

"From the very beginning we have emphasized that that is our goal, that that should be one of the pillars of the sin tax reform bill, the level playing field. So we hope that the bicam will be able to clarify that," he said.

The Bicameral committee has scheduled to tackle the sin tax reform measure next week.

Under Senate Bill 3299 cigarettes packed by hand, which is taxed this year of less than P7.56 will need to pay P6 per pack effective May 1, 2013.

For those that are taxed this year between P7.56 but less than P12 they will be taxed P10 per pack while those that are paying P12 or more this year will pay P14 per pact next year.

The bill said brands that will join the market from March 1, 2013 to Feb 28, 2015 will be collected "an excise tax in accordance with the net retail price (excluding the excise tax and the value-added tax) per pack..."

The bill provides for a unitary rates by 2017and Eugenio said the almost four-year leeway until the tax becomes unitary provides "preferential treatments for existing brands."

Under the House version, tobacco products will be taxed based on two tiers - those that have net retail price of below P11.50 and those above P11.50.

""The beauty there is that for new brands, the net retail price threshold is P11.50. It is updated to current prices," Eugenio said noting that the House version has a "cleaner and clearer" rules.

BAT, which produces Lucky Strike that are currently sold at 7/11 stores, re-established its Philippine operations early this year and bids to expand once the sin tax issues has been resolved.

Story of Cancer-survivor Photographer Wendell Rupert Alinea

The country's sports patrons continue to help sports development programs including the travel expenses of a cancer-survivor, one of the photographers granted accreditation to cover Chapter IV of the storied Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez rivalry on December 8 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photographer Wendell Rupert Alinea became probably the first cancer-survivor to cover a world championship match when Magda Media International, the outfit who handles media requirements of all fights held at the MGM Grand, granted him credentials to do the Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley bout last June.

This time, Alinea is out to captivate the images and human drama of the storied rivalry to finally determine who among the two boxing greats are more superior come fight night.

Alinea will contribute photographs for the People's Journal and People's Tonight, Manila Standard, Philippines News Agency (PNA) and He will work in tandem anew with his father, veteran sportswriter Eddie Alinea.

The young Alinea's trip to the United States was made possible with the assistance of Pacquiao himself, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) under chairperson Margarita Juico and businessman-sportsman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Pangilinan, MVP to the sports and business worlds and owner of the Talk 'N Text and Meralco teams in the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), and Pacquiao, also shared resources in sending Wendell to the US last June.

"Wendell, in surviving the dreaded leukemia, had shown extraordinary will to live, reason why I am helping him to serve as inspiration to others with the same predicament na sa tulong ng Maykapal at sa pamamagitan ng panalangin, may pagkakataon pa ring mabuhay," Pacquiao, who, actually, is virtually shouldering Alinea's treatment, said.

"Wendell showed proof that miracles, indeed, happen. His unstained belief in the Almighty carried him through the sufferings for six long years," said MVP, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and chair of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP). "I hope that the lesson in his determination to survive will drive others to do the same."

Chair Juico shared the same sentiment, saying, "In God, everything is possible and this our Creator showed through Wendell."

Wendell was pronounced by his physician, Dr. Francisco Lopez, cancer-free early this year but still has to undergo chemotherapy until January 2013 to ensure that his ailment won't relapse.

In January 2007, Wendell was diagnosed with the very rare Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia and had been in and out of the hospital, undergoing several cycles of chemotherapy.

Chinese ePassport Violates International Laws

The Philippine government will implement its new visa regulation sometime next week for Chinese nationals who will use passports displaying a map that includes an area in the West Philippine Sea, where Beijing is asserting ownership.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez on Thursday said all concerned agencies such as Philippine diplomatic missions and the Bureau of Immigration will "simultaneously" carry out the new policy aimed at denigrating China's latest attempt to bolster its territorial claim.

Hernandez said visa and immigration stamps will be placed on a separate sheet of document given to Chinese visitors entering the Philippines.

Manila's action reinforces its protest against what it calls China's excessive claim over almost the entire potentially oil-rich South China Sea including areas in the the West Philippine Sea.

"This action is being undertaken to avoid the Philippines being misconstrued as legitimizing the 9-dash line every time a Philippine visa is stamped on such Chinese e-passport," Hernandez said, referring to China's U-shaped nine-dotted line claim that covers most of the sea and overlaps with Manila's territories.

The Philippines move came after Vietnam implemented a similar policy on the new Chinese passports, which Manila called "unacceptable."

Chinese visitors need to apply for a visa to enter the Philippines.

Under the new scheme, Philippine visas will be stamped on a visa form to be provided by the DFA's embassies or consulates abroad to Chinese nationals, Hernandez explained.

Immigration officers at Philippine airports, on the other hand, will affix entry stamps on the same document and not on the new Chinese passports, Hernandez said.

The Philippines and China, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have long disputed ownership of the West Philippine Sea or also known as the South China Sea, a chain of islands, cays, reefs and atolls believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Last year, the Philippines and Vietnam separately accused Chinese vessels of intruding into their territories in and near the Spratlys off the West Philippine Sea and of disrupting their oil exploration activities. China claimed it has sovereignty in those areas on historical grounds.

Chinese and Philippine government ships also figured in a standoff starting in April at Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, a sprawling offshore area north of the Spratlys and off the country's northeastern province of Zambales that both countries claim.

US Dollar vs Peso Currency Exchange Rate

By Joann Santiago

The local bourse reversed its performance in the morning and capped this week with another record-high tracking counterparts overseas while the peso closed at the same level as Thursday.

The composite index registered another record-level at 5,640.45 points, up by 0.12 percent or 6.73 points from Thursday's 5,633.72 points, which is the previous record.

Traders said the improvement of the main index was traced to the reports quoting House Speaker John Boehner on a possible compromise that will prevent from "fiscal cliff" from materializing.

Also, reports said US President Barack Obama is hopeful that a deal on the world largest economy's fiscal situation will be addressed in the next four weeks.

On the other hand, the broader all shares index is down by 0.07 percent or 2.47 points lower at 3,639.42 points from Wednesday's 3,641.89 points.

Half of the sectoral indices namely the property, holding firms and services tracked the main index while the financials, industrial, and mining and oil ended the week on the week.

Value turn-over reached P11.02 billion after 3.74 billion shares changed hands.

Losers edged gainers at 103 to 65 while 39 stocks were unchanged.

Similarly, the peso closed at the same level as Thursday's at 41.90 against the dollar.

It started the day at 40.85, better than day-agos's 40.90.

It's opening level is the local unit's strongest trade for the day while weakest stood at 40.93 resulting to an average of 40.88.

Philippine Government Spending Drives Economic Growth

By Joan Santiago

Government spending, which is among the growth drivers of the domestic economy this year, continue to grow but the deficit did not balloon due to sustained growth in revenue collections.

Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) data shows that deficit last October reached P9.67 billion, lower than year-ago's P21.26 billion.

In the first 10 months this year, the budget gap was P115.74 billion, less than half of the full-year deficit ceiling of P279 billion, which accounts to 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Revenues last October alone amounted to P134.32 billion, boosted by most of the revenue-generating agencies.

In particular, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which collects about 70 percent of taxes, jumped 22 percent to P86.11 billion while that of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) rose 18 percent to P26.93 billion.

Also, collections of the BTr rose by 140 percent to P6.3 billion and the other offices contributed P15 billion.

Government spending amounted to P143.994 billion last October.

For the first 10 months this year, revenues amounted to P1.25 trillion, 12 percent higher than the P1.12 trillion same period in 2011.

Of the total, BIR's contribution rose 13 percent year-on-year to P858.57 billion while the BOC's went up by 11 percent to P240.6 billion.

BTr also contributed higher collection at P71.35 and the other offices shared in P82.75 billion.

Expending during the 10-month period totaled to P1.37 trillion, 15 percent higher year-on-year.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, in a statement said the government continues to record primary surplus, which transpires when you exclude interest payments in total expenditures, with last October's figure at P150.95 billion.

He said the "resilient" performance from both the revenue collection and spending "greatly reduces the risk of fiscal slippage by year-end, as it is well within the full year deficit program of P279.106 billion."

He disclosed that revenue effort as of the third quarter this year increased to 14.7 percent against year-ago's 14.5 percent.

"The Aquino administration's prudent fiscal management has maintained ample fiscal space to spend for inclusive growth, maintaining a deficit-to-GDP ratio at 1.4 percent, well within the 2.6 percent full-year program," he said.

"The 1Q-3Q national government tax effort also increased to 13.1 percent, against the previous year's 12.7 percent. This is driven by the 0.4 percent improvement in the Bureau of Internal Revenue's revenue-to-GDP ratio, now at 10.2 percent," he said.

Purisima said with the higher-than-expected 7.1 percent growth of the domestic economy in the third quarter this year, which is at the top in the ASEAN and the second in the region after China, and the 11.8 percent revenue growth "we are confident that we are reaping the dividends of President Aquino's good governance reforms."

He pointed out that expansion of the domestic economy is "significant" because it is higher than the trend GDP growth of 4.7 percent in the past ten years, was accomplished in a very difficult global economic environment, and happened despite a 2.2 percent decline in mining.

He, on the other hand, stressed that "while the current fiscal space continues to be an opportunity for the judicious use of public funds for projects of high and inclusive growth, the Finance Department continues to push for revenue-generating reforms that will allow for sustainable and resilient fiscal consolidation."

Among these measures is the proposed sin tax reform bill, which has been passed by the Congress and the Senate.

Last November 20, the Senate approved on third and final reading its version of the bill, which is targeted to raise additional P40 billion in revenues and provides incremental increase until the rate becomes unitary in 2017, which in turn was made to make it hard for the poor and the youth to access sin products.

Malaysian investors in the Philippines

Malaysian investors have been invited to tap the immense resources and business opportunities in Mindanao, especially in the area of agriculture, infrastructure and mining.

Philippines Ambassador to Malaysia J.Eduardo Malaya said at present most Malaysian companies are operating in Metro Manila in the services and infrastructure sectors.

Among the Malaysian companies are Resorts World, MTD Capital, Maybank and Berjaya Corporation.

"Mindanao has largely untapped resources. In fact, the area is even more fertile, and very suitable for agricultural activities," Malaya told reporters after opening the "Investors Networking Forum for Mindanao" here Thursday.

He said a lot of fast track land is available for oil palm, rubber and coffee plantations as well as marine culture, including seaweed production. 

Rules on Civil Procedure Case

The Supreme Court has ruled the Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for automatic sanction should a party fail to submit the required explanation for resorting to service by registered mail rather than personal service.

In a six-page decision written by Justice Roberto A. Abad, the SC's Third Division unanimously ruled that both the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen, Pangasinan (Branch 37) and the Court of Appeals did not gravely abuse their discretion when both courts ruled against the striking out of the motion for judgment by default filed by private respondent Roberto and Arabela Arcinue against petitioner Natividad Lim for failure of the Arcinues to submit the required explanation.

The SC said Rule 13, Section 11 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure "does not provide for automatic sanction should a party fail to submit the required explanation. It merely provides for that possibility considering its use of the term 'may'."

"Moreover, the same does not altogether prohibit service by registered mail when such service, when adopted, ensures as in this case receipt by the adverse party," it added.

It noted that Lim's counsel in fact even admitted to receiving a copy of the Arcinues' motion 10 days before the scheduled hearing on the said motion.

The SC thus ordered the RTC to proceed with the hearing and adjudication of the case.

The National Power Corporation filed an expropriation case against petitioner Lim for its Coal-Fired Thermal Power Project.

Private respondents Arcinue spouses filed a motion for leave to admit their complaint-in-intervention, alleging that, they owned and were in possession of one of the lots subject of the expropriation.

The RTC granted the Arcinues' motion and required both NPC and Lim to answer the complaint-in-intervention within 10 days from receipt of its order.

Because NPC and Lim failed to file their respective answers, the Arcinues filed a motion for judgment by default.

Lim then sought to expunge the motion for lack of the requisite explanation why the Arcinues resorted to service by registered mail rather than personal service.